After arrests, protests continue outside Republican National Convention
Despite police making 17 arrests outside Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday afternoon, peaceful and at times eccentric protests continued in Cleveland's nearby Public Square.
Police say members of the Revolutionary Communist Party attempted to burn an American flag outside the arena where the Republican National Convention is taking place. Officers extinguished the flames and dispersed protesters and reporters in the area.
Charges against those involved included felonious assault on a police officer, failure to disperse and resisting arrest. Two officers were assaulted and sustained minor injuries.
Within a half hour, the Public Square a few blocks away where protesters had congregated largely returned to normal. In the hours that followed, a woman performed an interpretive dance with a red scarf that appeared to represent blood and a troupe of actors put on a musical interpretation of “Trump the Clown” taking control of the Republican Party.
A large contingent of police officers kept a group of anti-gay protesters separated from a liberal group for more than an hour.
Several witnesses who were in the square at the time of the flag-burning were unaware of exactly what had happened.
“It sort of fizzled, as the saying goes,” a Donald Trump supporter named Gahan said of the burning attempt.
Gahan, who carried a “Teamsters for Trump” sign, was adamant that he was not a protester, but rather a “volunteer” standing up for Trump.
He said he has had good discussions throughout the week with anti-Trump protesters.
“To the extent that people are willing to talk about issues, it was fruitful,” he said.
A younger protester named Lawrence who wore a Trump flag like a cape also said he had good debates with Trump’s critics, but he also indicated some conflict.
“Some f***ing commie tried to spit on me earlier. Of course they missed because they’re completely incompetent,” Lawrence said.
Others were finding success with bipartisan messages.
Suzie, a Code Pink member from Kansas, plans to bring her anti-war message to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention next week as well. On Wednesday, she carried a banner stating, “I refuse to surrender my personal liberty to anyone.”
“You can’t argue against it,” she said. “‘Please take my liberties away from me,’ right?”
She refuses to support Trump or Clinton, listing concerns about their intelligence and honesty.
“He’s kind of a buffoon,” she said of Trump. “He’s kind of a clown guy.”
Her biggest concern with Clinton was her use of a private server for email when she was secretary of state.
“The excuse [FBI Director James] Comey gave was that it was stupid, and we don’t want that, a stupid president, right?”
She plans to write in Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and hopes the Democratic Party will continue to pursue his vision in the future.
“At the very least, Bernie Sanders opened a lot of eyes to the way things could be and should be.”
Sean Burke, founder of an organization called Reset Our Gov, held a chart illustrating the ballooning federal debt. He has been driving around the country throughout the primaries in a mobile home emblazoned with his logo and message.
Burke said he grew extremely concerned with the federal debt about four years ago and thought long and hard about what the average citizen could do about it. The idea he settled on is what he called “the reset button,” essentially electing entirely new political leadership.
“It’s peaceful overthrow your government,” he said. “It’s not armed. You vote them out.”
He said people have been receptive throughout his road trip, because they share his fears about the debt’s impact on the economy and want to do something.
“To me, this is how our country goes down,” he warned, if the debt is not addressed. “Nice and slow, one day.”
He is not endorsing any specific policy prescriptions for the issue though, other than balancing the budget in some way.
“I don’t have all the answers,” he said, “but that’s what our elected officials are supposed to do.”
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A small group of Revolutionary Communist Party protesters returned around 5:30 p.m. Eastern time, marching around the square and chanting “America was never great."
They eventually blocked traffic on a street south of the square, surrounded by a large number of officers on foot and on bikes. Police moved in on them at one point, forcing the remainder of the group onto the sidewalk, where they continued their protest.
The protesters were greatly outnumbered by media and onlookers with cameras.
Police noted at a press briefing later in the night that the “massive media presence” is making it difficult for officers to police the demonstrations.